This Midwife at Auschwitz Delivered 3,000 Babies in Unfathomable Conditions | Reality of Pregnancy in Auschwitz

Auschwitz concentration camp is etched in history as a place of unimaginable death and suffering, where the Nazi regime mercilessly exterminated at least 1.1 million people during the Holocaust. However, amid this manmade hell on earth, an extraordinary story of life and resistance emerged, thanks to a brave Polish woman named Stanislawa Leszczyńska. During her two-year internment at Auschwitz, this midwife defied the camp’s machinery of death by delivering around 3,000 babies under the most abhorrent conditions. Though her remarkable acts of humanity are little known outside of Poland, Leszczyńska’s story stands as a powerful testament to the resistance of a small group of women determined to help their fellow prisoners.

Leszczyńska’s path to Auschwitz began with her desire to assist others in need. Born in Lodz in 1896, she spent her early years in relative peace, marrying, studying to become a midwife, and starting a family. However, everything changed in 1939 when Nazi Germany invaded Poland. Suddenly, Leszczyńska found herself living in an occupied country, and her city of Lodz, home to the second-largest Jewish population in Poland, became the site of a ghetto. More than a third of the city’s population was crammed into a tiny area and forced to work for the Nazis.

Horrified by the inhumane conditions in the ghetto, Leszczyńska and her family, including her four children, decided to take action. They joined a growing Polish resistance movement, smuggling false documents and food to the Jews imprisoned in the ghetto. Their courageous efforts did not go unnoticed, and in 1943, the family’s work was discovered, leading to their interrogation by the dreaded Gestapo.

While Leszczyńska’s husband and eldest son managed to escape, she and her younger children were arrested. Leszczyńska was separated from her sons, who were sent to different camps for forced labor, and she was deported to Auschwitz along with her daughter, a medical student. Tragically, her husband continued fighting the Nazis but was killed during the Warsaw Uprising of 1944, and Leszczyńska never saw him again.

Upon arrival at the notorious Auschwitz camp, Leszczyńska sought out a German doctor and boldly declared herself a midwife. This daring act led to her assignment in the camp’s “maternity ward,” a set of filthy barracks that was less a place to care for pregnant women than a site to usher them into death.

The brutal reality of Auschwitz’s maternity ward was a horrific one. Most pregnant women were simply sent to the gas chambers upon arrival. Those who managed to conceal their pregnancies until reaching the camp were sometimes given forced abortions by Gisella Perl, a doctor who helped prevent hundreds of women from giving birth, knowing the fate that awaited their newborns. Often, when women were discovered to be pregnant, they were summarily executed.

Other pregnant women were sent to a hospital barracks to wait out the remainder of their pregnancies in squalid conditions. These barracks were overseen by “Sister Klara,” a midwife who had been sent to the camp for murdering a child, and a woman named “Sister Pfani.” Their role was to declare babies born in the ward as stillborn and then drown them in buckets, often in front of the mothers who had just given birth. Shockingly, Sister Klara’s role did not include assisting with deliveries.

As historian Michael Berkowitz writes, “This division of labor was one of the most grotesque examples of the Nazis, on the one hand, cynically adhering to ‘legal’ standards—not having the disbarred nurse assist childbirths—but on the other hand, assigning her to murder newborn Jewish babies.”

When Leszczyńska learned of the depraved expectations placed upon her in the macabre maternity ward, she refused to comply. Even when taken to the doctor who oversaw the entire camp, she again refused to participate in the murder of infants. As Leszczyńska’s son, Bronislaw, stated in 1988, “Why they did not kill her then, no one knows.”

Despite facing threats and beatings from Sister Klara, Leszczyńska courageously began caring for mothers and delivering their babies. Although she knew that most of the infants she helped bring into the world would be killed within hours, she worked tirelessly to save as many of the mothers’ lives as she could. It was an almost impossible task, with no running water, few blankets, no diapers, and little food available. Leszczyńska quickly learned to have women in labor lie on the rarely lit brick stove in the center of the barracks—the only place that could accommodate a laboring woman. Lice and diseases were common in the “hospital,” which would fill with inches of water when it rained.

Assisted by her daughter and other prisoners, Leszczyńska later said she delivered around 3,000 babies during her two years at Auschwitz. She continued to refuse to kill babies despite repeated orders to do so, even standing up to the camp’s infamous “Angel of Death,” Dr. Josef Mengele, who was known for his brutal experiments on twins and other inmates.

Not every baby born in Auschwitz’s maternity ward was immediately murdered. Beginning in 1943, some were taken to be given to Nazi couples as “Aryan” babies under Nazi Germany’s Lebensborn program, which kidnapped up to 100,000 babies in Poland alone. Leszczyńska and her assistants did their best to tattoo the babies who were taken, in the hopes that they would later be identified and reunited with their mothers. Other women, tragically, chose to kill their babies themselves rather than hand them over to the Nazis.

In the heart of one of the darkest chapters in human history, Stanislawa Leszczyńska shone as a beacon of light, courage, and compassion. Through her defiant acts of humanity, this remarkable midwife challenged the cruel ideology of the Nazi regime and fought to preserve life in a place designed for death. Her story reminds us that even in the most horrific circumstances, the resilience of the human spirit can persevere, and simple acts of decency and resistance can make a profound difference.

Leave a Comment

error: Content is protected !!